The intentions are honorable but memorials in public places are hard to bear

You often see sentinels on the side of the road, sad reminders of a tearful tragedy, on a busy street corner in the city, or out in the middle of nowhere. There might be a display of flowers, maybe with ribbons and bows. Sometimes it’s just a lonely cross stuck in the ground.

The memorials that stand out the most are the so-called “ghost bicycles,” often with flat tires because they’ve been there so long. These somber remembrances are placed by grieving relatives or friends of a cyclist who died in a traffic accident, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to them.

My cousin lives on a corner in a busy Queens neighborhood. There was an accident there where someone died. A memorial was placed on the corner — lots of flowers and a cross.

Then once a week relatives and friends would come to visit and have a little service. Mind you, this is right out on the street in front of my cousin’s house. After a while, getting to see that over and over again, no matter how good the intentions, just gets old. Cemeteries exist for a reason, after all.

There are two main routes that I take to work. For many years, there was a ghost bicycle on the corner by a gas station where a young lady got killed while riding her bike. The accident was tragic no doubt, as she was young, beautiful, full of energy, and a well-respected small-business owner.

But, twice a day, five days a week, I had to be reminded of her untimely death. That got depressing after a while.

That ghost bike is gone now, thankfully, but another one has appeared on the other main drag that I use almost every day. This one was also a bicycle accident. (See a pattern here?) So now, again, I’m reminded of death oftentimes twice a day, when all I’m trying to do is commute back and forth to work. As if commuting needed something else to make it even worse.

If you’re like me, busy just about all the time, you probably don’t think about death too often in your daily routine. You know it’s going to happen eventually but you don’t dwell on it.

In my case, once I hit age 50, I can honestly say I don’t even fear it any more. The idea of resting peacefully for a long time after a full and active life actually sounds pretty good in many ways.

The thing is, I normally don’t think about it, but then I see the flowers, the crosses, and the ghost bicycles — and I get sad. It’s not good to be reminded of death all the time. Had I wanted that, I would have gone into the very lucrative undertaker business.

I don’t know if there are any laws against creating your own public memorial at crash sites. Even if there are, it would not be fun telling a victim’s relatives their memorial is not welcome.

Though the intention is honorable, the practice of making memorials in public places just doesn’t sit right with me. We already have cemeteries. I know people are grieving, but why do we need to be reminded of it, often twice a day, every day? It sure is a bummer, I can tell you that.

My dear departed mom is buried about an hour from my home. I visit her grave maybe two or three times a year. I don’t need to place a cross outside the apartment where she last lived. I don’t need to place flowers outside the hospital where she finally died.

I don’t need to visit here grave weekly or even daily like I know many grieving relatives do. I just know that she lives on in my heart and I think about her all the time. I’m sure she’d be happy knowing that.

A friend of mine who, like me, was a huge Minnesota Vikings died recently. I just heard that his lovely wife drove all the way out to Minnesota to sprinkle his ashes at the new stadium. I have to say that’s pretty cool, and I’m sure Bill would have loved that.

I’ve instructed my wife and my friend to put some of my ashes in the gas tank of my motorcycle when I die, and then to have them ride the bike up my favorite road, Route 30, north into the Adirondacks when I die. What a nice way to have one last motorcycle ride. I just hope the fuel filter doesn’t get clogged.

Note that, in each of these cases of final memorials with ashes that I just described, there is no permanent display left to sadden any commuters or any residents who happen to live where something bad happened. I think this is appropriate.

In fact, I’ll go one step further — make sure you tell the people you love most how you feel about them while they’re still around to hear it. It’s much better for them then a cross on the side of the road or a ghost bicycle with flat tires sitting chained to a pole somewhere.

Speaking of ghost bicycles left as memorials — how about, instead of letting a perfectly good bike sit outside to rust, try cleaning it up and donating it to the City Mission or the Salvation Army? Letting a kid use it for what it was meant to be used for is much better, I think. I’ll bet the poor accident victim would feel the same way.

We all grieve in different ways, no doubt about it, but when your grief has to cause poor commuting working stiffs to feel sad twice a day, maybe there’s a better way to grieve.